If being arrested for a crime you did not commit isn’t bad enough, when you don’t live in New York City and your witnesses aren’t fluent in the English language and are returning to their homes in Europe that same day, its reasonable to assume that things are about to go from bad to terribly worse. While it is a legitimate thought to have as you are hauled away in handcuffs, charged with crimes including Assault in the Third Degree, New York Penal Law 120.00, and tossed into Manhattan’s Central Booking to wait and meet a criminal lawyer your friends or family retained, your initial pain need not foretell the ultimate outcome. As experienced by a recent Saland Law PC client, the trauma of being accused of Assault by a cab driver and the anxiety of being 1000s of miles from home was fortunately (if one can use that term when falsely accused of a crime) the worst part of a roller coaster ride that ended in a meritorious dismissal.
Our client, in NYC for work, was returning to his hotel with two colleagues after finishing a project. While all three of the men were not from the City, two of the men were both unfamiliar with Manhattan and spoke little English. After hailing a cab and advising the cab driver where they were headed, our client believed that the cab driver was taking them far out of the way to run up the meter. Confronting the cab driver, our client ultimately told him that he should pull over and that they would get another taxi or Uber. Upon doing so, the cab driver became angered, stopped the vehicle and exited. As out client exited, along with the two other individuals, the cab driver got into the face of one of the men. Because our client was the native English speaker, he tried to calm the situation, stepped between the parties and gently “pushed” the cab driver as a means to make space between all of them and defuse the confrontation. Although voices were loud, no other physical contact occurred and the three men, including our client, walked off. Moments later, police officers with the NYPD arrived and without questioning our client or making an attempt to secure information from the two other men, arrested him for allegedly punching and striking the cab driver twice and knocking him to the ground. Despite his plea of innocence and being quite flabbergasted, our client found himself in the back of an RMP.
Ultimately (nobody wants to read about procedure so we can skip that piece), the assigned prosecutor diligently investigated the case and listened to our argument. Making it clear that this was not a case where a lesser non-criminal disposition was sought because our client made a mistake or was an otherwise good person, the ADA pursued the complainant to make further inquiries and we provided the witness accounts of what transpired. In doing so, our client’s innocence became more clear not because the complainant said the fight did not occur, but he changed his story from injury, to no injury, back to injury and from punched in the face, to punched in the back to punched in the chest. Simply, its not so easy to keep up a lie, especially where two other witness told a different set of facts. Once the prosecutor was in possession of the Brady material, he disclosed the same to us and after working through some issues agreed that our client should not return to court, the case should be advanced and the People would dismiss the case.
Although Saland Law PC has secured acquittals at trial and downward departures in terms of criminal and non-criminal pleas and incarceratory and non-incarceratory sentences, sometimes advocacy, doing a little bit of “homework,” and a prosecutor who does the same, can lead to exoneration.
To learn more about Article 120 Assault crimes – both felony and misdemeanor – review the respective link.
Saland Law PC, a New York criminal defense firm founded by former Manhattan prosecutors, represents the accused and complainants throughout the metropolitan region in all criminal matters, Family Court Orders of Protection, Title IX investigations and related cases.